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Archive for November, 2012

Questions from a Critic

Friday, November 30th, 2012 by Elgin Hushbeck

I recently answered some questions from a critic, and I thought I would post them here.   Initially he just sent questions and never responded to the answers except to ask more questions.  Over time however, he evidently became frustrated by the answers, became belligerent and then quickly his question devolved into name-calling and obscenity, with a wish for God to kill me; at which point I ended the discussion.  But his questions do provide a nice window into the mind of a hostile critic. Note will be editing the questions a little, as it appears that the critic may only speak English as a second, and then for the later questions, to remove the insults and obscenities.

Such questions are also important as they can reveal how the Bible can be misunderstood.  For example, questions 8 and 9 depend on a particular understanding of the word “fulfill,” an understanding that is all too often promoted by Christians.   Thus such questions not only reveal the critics incorrectly understanding of the Bible, they can also help us come to a more accurate understanding.

Question 1 Where is the original Bible?
Question 3 Can you show me a complete manuscript of the New Testament written in the 1st century?
Question 4 Can you show me a complete manuscript of the New Testament written in the 2nd century?
Question 5 HOW MANY YEARS is there from writing the last book of the New Testament to the oldest complete copy of the New Testament?

Answer: Questions 1, 3-5 all deal the reliability of the text of the books of the Bible.  The originals have all been lost, but they are not needed to confirm the reliability of the text, particularly of the New Testament. For example, the books of the New Testament were copied and distributed during the lifetime of the Apostles. From these other copies were made.  We have fragments of manuscripts starting in the early part of the 2nd century (A first century manuscript find has been announced but the details are not scheduled to be published till next year).  In all there are thousands of manuscripts and portions of manuscripts, along with the tens of thousands of early translations, along with the numerous citations of the Bible made by the early church fathers, and they are all very consistent with each other.

Now it is true that not all of these sources agree 100 percent.  Mistakes were made in copying, and we can see this in the manuscripts, but there is such a wealth of evidence, that in the vast majority of places it is pretty clear which is the original reading and which is the mistake. The few places were doubt remains, while important to the particular passages; do not affect the teaching of the Bible as a whole. No teaching of Christians depends on a passage where there is a doubt about the text.

I would also point out that there is a huge problem if you want to believe that the text has been deliberately changed and that would be:  How would it have happened?  During the life time of the Apostles they would have resisted any such corruption of the text, as would their followers. By the time of their deaths there would have been many copies scattered across the Roman world.  It simply would not have been possible to gather up and destroy all of these, replacing them with the “new” versions.  The emperor Diocletian tried to destroy all copies of the Bible in the early part of the 4th century, and even with the power of the Empire, was unsuccessful, as many Christians died protecting their copies.

Against this evidence, your questions are not that important when it comes to the issue of can we trust what the text says.  We can.

Question #2 How can you be 100% sure that the UNKNOWN writer of judges was NOT a liar? The writer is UNKNOWN and this makes the characteristics of the writer unknown.

Answer #2,   That the author of Judges is unknown, is true.  He could be a lair, or he could be truthful; and thus the much broader question is how can we know if he is reliable?  Like with the issue of the text there are a number of factors both internal and external we can look at in determining the reliability of an account.  Much of this is the same that historians use to judge the reliability of any account.  But for me there is one additional factor, which is the judgment of Jesus. Jesus repeatedly makes reference to the Old Testament in whole and in part, and considers it to be the word of God.

Question 6: Do you believe there are contradictions in the Bible?

Answer #6: The Bible is a reliable record so at times it records the false claims made by people which are in conflict with the truth, such as the Amalekite in 2 Samuel 1.  So in this sense, yes.  But in terms of contradictions that would call into question the reliability of the writers, I have yet to see one that can stand up to serious examination.

Question 7: If you read the CONTEXT Isaiah 7:14, you will realize that the verse is NOT about Jesus but about somebody else.  From the context the verse is NOT a dual prophecy.  Did Matthew make a mistake here?

Answer #7: Concerning Isaiah 7:14; no Matthew did not make a mistake. It is not quite as clear cut as you have presented it. While there is some ambiguity in the use of the Hebrew word almah in that while it normally means virgin, it can also mean young woman, the Septuagint (a Greek translation made several hundred years before Christ) used the same Greek word that Matthew used, i.e., virgin.  Nor is it clear that this is about someone else.  After all, the context here of a sign from God, and a young woman giving birth is hardly such a sign. Signs in the OT function as “present persuaders” or “future confirmations.”  The sign in 7:14 is of the latter type. The threat that was looming was not just to Azad, but to the house of David. The birth of Jesus was a future conformation of this.

Question 8: Matthew 2:15 cites Hosea 11:1; but Hosea 11:1 is NOT about Jesus.  Read the context of Hosea 11.  Did Matthew also make a mistake here?
Question 9: Matthew 2:17-18 references Jeremiah 31:15, but the context in Jeremiah 31 is NOT about Jesus. Read the CONTEXT in Jeremiah 31.  Did Matthew make a mistake?

Answers #8 and #9 Again Matthew did not make a mistake. To claim that he did requires very narrow understanding of the word “fulfill” an understanding narrower than the usage in the New Testament.  Thus, Jesus is often seen as the antitype of Israel where events in the history of Israel are paralleled (fulfilled) in the life of Christ. In addition Matthew is also citing these as contrasts with Israel, fulfillment in the sense that their failure is being replaced by Jesus success.

Question 10: If the Bible says that a part of a day is considered a whole day and whole night and if Jesus was in the tomb on Friday, then this means one day and one night.  If Jesus was also in the tomb on Saturday then this means another day and another night. But I do NOT think Jesus was also in the tomb for a part of a day on Sunday.  According to the Bible Jesus rose BEFORE Sunday began.  If this is true then Jesus was NOT in the tomb for three days and three nights as Matthew 12:40 says.  Did Matthew make a mistake here?

Answers #10 Your criticism assumes a level precision concerning time that was simply unknown before clocks and watches.  The most common time frame in the Gospels is a quarter of a day.  Frankly it is not even clear if the all the Gospels measured time from midnight to midnight or sunrise to sunrise.  Now while it is true that Matthew 28:1 can be translated as “Late on the Sabbath” it can also be translated as “After the Sabbath.” It depends on the context. Given the context here, I believe that NIV translation is correct when it translates this as, “After the Sabbath, at the dawn on the first day of the week.” This would indicate that the resurrection, as commonly believed, occurred early on Sunday, and thus there were 3 days.